"So, what should we have for lunch?"
We'd set out from Kuala Lumpur for Malacca that sunny Saturday morning, my two Malaccan tour guides and I, and as we discussed lunch on the drive to the historical city, the possibilities seemed endless. I figured, though, that it would be a bit of a crime to not have any Nyonya food while in Malacca, so Nyonya it was.
Perhaps the best thing about spending the weekend with friends who are locals is all that inside food knowledge that they have, the sort that one cannot get from websites and articles. A few quick calls while still en route to the city, and we had our table booked. There was much talk of pongteh - I was excited.
Amy's Heritage Nyonya Cuisine
75, Jalan Melaka Raya 24,
Taman Melaka Raya
I was warned that it would be a bit of a wait for the food as the restaurant is almost always full and it was assumed that all the cooking was indeed done by an Aunty Amy herself. The restaurant was indeed full when we walked in, and we witnessed a few customers who came after us being turned away.
Pie tee, crispy shells filled with a mix of julienned vegetables similar to those generally used to fill popiah rolls. A dab of chilli sauce and you have a lovely (crisp!) start to the meal.
The fish dish that came recommended by the elderly man who took our order, ikan gerang asam. There's nothing like a good sour-spicy balance to get that appetite going. This, to me, had that Nyonya stamp all over it - the clever use of spices and that distinct kick of tanginess.
Chicken pongteh - a comforting chicken, potato and mushroom stew, the sort that makes you drink spoonfuls of gravy at the end of the meal. I was guilty of all that gravy drinking, a testament to the fact that they had managed to get the flavour just right - not too salty, not too strong.
Chap chai, Nyonya-style stir fried mixed vegetables. Having grown up on a healthy dose of Hainanese-style mix vegetables which largely consists of the same ingredients except for the fermented bean paste, I'm always slightly partial to that version. With that said, I thoroughly enjoyed Amy's chap chai as the fermented bean paste (which sometimes pushes dishes over the too-salty cliff) wasn't overly pronounced.
We also tucked into a dish of sweet and sour tofu, pictured above with the chap chai. Light, crisp tofu to offset the other heavier dishes. All that washed down by some pandan-infused Chinese tea, something I'd never come across before until Amy's.
"Make sure you don't rush through everything - Nyonya food is to be enjoyed slowly"
Amy's makes you feel like you're eating in your grandmother's kitchen - the elderly man checks on your table periodically to make sure that all is well, offering little gems of advice just like that one (although that was probably a result of him being slightly appalled at the speed at which we were attacking the food as soon as the dishes hit our table). Sure, there's a bit of a wait, but I suppose that saying, "All good things come to those who wait" had to come from somewhere, right? Another little tip: making a booking is probably wise.
To work off some of our lunch before all the mille crepe eating, we took a stroll down Jonker street, a little trip for the senses.
The tantalising sticky sweet aroma of ting ting tang.
More yummy smells - Nyonya-style pineapple tarts right out of the oven.
A sight for sore eyes - traditional Chinese pastries.
Gorgeous flower teas at tea stall tucked away in a little lane.
Ahh, weekend indulgences.